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Virginia Administrative Code
Title 9. Environment
Agency 20. Virginia Waste Management Board
Chapter 121. Regulated Medical Waste Management Regulations
5/25/2024

9VAC20-121-260. Validation testing.

A. Prior to using any treatment system, the facility must conduct validation testing that employs the use of process controls, biological indicators, and process monitoring to establish operating parameters to demonstrate effective treatment of regulated medical waste.

B. Prior to validation testing, the owner or operator shall submit to the department a treatment plan containing the information required by 9VAC20-121-330 E. The plan shall demonstrate that the validation protocols for each treatment unit meet the standards of this section and shall indicate any additional protocols specific to the regulated medical waste to be treated, such as the use of packaging types that may affect treatment of the waste. Validation testing must be conducted in accordance with an approved treatment plan and the requirements of this section. The validation test results and operating parameters must be submitted to the department for review prior to acceptance of regulated medical waste for treatment.

C. To demonstrate reproducibility, a minimum of three separate treatment runs must be performed on three separate days, using three distinct loads, during which the department is present to witness at least one complete validation test run. All test runs shall meet the following requirements:

1. Operating parameters used during the tests must be consistent with the parameters that will be used during routine operation of the treatment process (e.g., cycle duration, temperature, pressure, chemical concentration, irradiation exposure time, or other treatment parameters as applicable).

2. Surrogate waste load composition (e.g., porosity, liquids, solids, moisture content, organic matter, thermal resistance, and type of packaging or containers) and waste load configuration (e.g., packing density and orientation) used during the tests must be consistent with the waste properties and loading process that will be used during routine operation. The surrogate waste load shall represent the most difficult waste anticipated to be treated during routine operation.

3. The weight and volume of the surrogate waste loads used during the tests must be consistent with the amount of waste that will be treated during routine operation. Validation testing must be performed at the treatment unit's full capacity unless an alternate load size is approved.

D. To assess treatment performance, the system must employ commercially-prepared biological indicators from the same lot or batch, each containing spores that demonstrate the necessary resistance for the treatment method, as determined by the department. The indicators must:

1. Have a minimum concentration of 6 log10 spores per biological indicator. The concentration must be higher and more thermally resistant than the bioburden routinely associated with the waste;

2. Include a supplier's certificate of performance (or certificate of analysis) that identifies the organism (genus, species, strain, and population) and, for thermal treatment systems (including autoclaves), the D-value and Z-value. The D-value must be 1.5 to 3.0 minutes, unless otherwise approved by the department, and the Z-value must be no less than 50°F (10°C);

3. Be appropriate for the type of waste and device (i.e., self-contained, suspension, or spore strip), including the shelf life, the carrier material and primary packaging, the culture medium (for self-contained biological indicators) and the media, growth, and culture conditions (for non-self-contained biological indicators);

4. Be compatible with the treatment process and have a resistance relative to the temperature, pressures, conditions, chemicals, or irradiation used in the process; the infectious agents on a substrate; the type and density of the waste to be treated; and its packaging;

5. Be placed in a carrier system (e.g., net bags, wrapped in a paper towel and encased in cotton batting or inside tennis balls, socks, or alloy containers with holes in them) designed to mimic the thermal resistance of the waste before placement into the package to be treated. Materials used to hold biological indicators must be similar to the waste to be treated, provide effective protection from damage or breakage or from otherwise being compromised, be loose in the bulk of the waste, and be easily retrievable at the end of each validation test run. Indicators shall not be placed in carrier systems that would enhance treatment or produce erroneous results (such as metal containers that would conduct heat);

6. Be placed throughout the waste load during each validation test at the coldest or most challenging locations within the treatment unit, where the sum of all influences on the microorganisms results in minimal inactivation for a defined waste load;

7. Be used in accordance with the quantity specified as follows, for each test run:

a. Three biological indicators per cycle for 0 to 110 pounds of waste per load;

b. Five biological indicators per cycle for 111 to 550 pounds of waste per load;

c. Seven biological indicators per cycle for 551 to 1,100 pounds of waste per load;

d. Nine biological indicators per cycle for 1,101 to 1,650 pounds of waste per load;

e. Eleven or more biological indicators per cycle, as determined by the department, for greater than 1,650 pounds of waste per load; and

f. One or more biological indicators from the same lot or batch to be left untreated and used as a control;

8. Be stored in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications when not in use. Expired biological indicators shall not be utilized.

9. Biological indicators in the form of paper strips must not be used in devices or areas where fluids can pool or puddle around the indicator. Self-contained biological indicators with vent caps must not be used where liquids may accumulate and contaminate the indicators.

10. Qualitative or quantitative biological indicators shall be used provided the operator or vendor of the technology provides evidence from such sources as peered reviewed journals that support the use of that particular indicator. Biological indicators requiring microbial bioassay to confirm effective treatment must be quantitatively analyzed after the treatment cycle. All self-contained biological indicators used for test runs must be evaluated for growth (e.g. qualitatively analyzed for color change) following incubation in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

E. Concurrent with biological indicators, the process must employ devices or instrumentation that demonstrates the treatment unit is achieving critical operating parameters for effective treatment. Process monitoring shall include:

1. Thermochemical indicators (e.g., tape, paper strips, or integrators) that demonstrate that the waste has been exposed to a certain temperature or chemical concentration;

2. Thermochemical recording devices (e.g., wireless data loggers, thermocouples, or chemical monitoring probes) that are placed in or on waste packages and that provide a measurable record of actual treatment conditions of the waste . The minimum number of thermochemical recording devices to be used during each validation test shall be at least one device per treatment bin plus one additional device in the treatment chamber; and

3. Parametric controls or monitoring devices integral to the treatment system that record critical operational treatment parameters and provide a record of measurements that can be correlated to effective treatment.

F. Effective treatment of regulated medical waste must achieve a 6 log10 or greater reduction of the viable spore concentrations of the most appropriate bacterial species for the treatment method. Effective treatment is demonstrated by no growth in all treated biological indicators and growth in all untreated biological indicators during each test run. In certain situations where the waste poses a greater risk (e.g., a higher bioburden waste), the department may require a greater reduction.

G. The facility shall submit to the department for approval a summary of the validation test results demonstrating the treatment effectiveness and specifying the operating parameters based on the results of all validation test runs. The report shall describe the results of all validation test runs, including:

1. Date and time of all test runs, including the operator's name and cycle start and end times;

2. Surrogate waste load composition, configuration, and size;

3. Number, type, batch or lot number, expiration date, and placement of biological indicators, thermochemical indicators, and thermochemical recording devices; and

4. Results of all methods used to monitor operating parameters achieved throughout the treatment cycle and the accuracy of parametric monitoring devices, including copies of charts, graphs, or other read-outs from the treatment equipment and growth results of all treated indicators and untreated controls.

H. Validation testing must be repeated when any of the following occurs:

1. Failure of any treatment process to achieve operational parameters, such as time, temperature, or pressure during validation testing;

2. Failure to achieve microbial inactivation in any biological indicator during any treatment cycle during validation testing;

3. Failure of the untreated control indicator to show growth of the viable spore concentration;

4. Any modifications to any of the treatment process operational parameters, bioburden, waste mass, chemical type, concentration, irradiation or exposure time, type of waste to be treated, or mechanical or engineering changes to the treatment system from those assessed during the validation testing;

5. A failure identified in subdivision 1, 2, or 3 of this subsection during periodic challenge testing as identified by biological or process monitoring that occurs three or more times in a calendar year or during the first 30 days of actual operation;

6. A treatment device has been operational without a repeat validation for at least five years; or

7. A treatment device has not been used for at least one year.

Statutory Authority

§ 10.1-1402 of the Code of Virginia; 42 USC § 6941 et seq.; 40 CFR Part 257.

Historical Notes

Derived from Virginia Register Volume 39, Issue 13, eff. March 15, 2023.

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